When you think of fasting, you might feel overwhelmed at the thought of not eating for extended periods of time, but sticking to your intermittent fasting diet plan is easy once you get used to it… and the health benefits are totally worth it!
Fasting might seem like a fad diet or a trend, but it has been around forever. In fact, our ancestors were in constant states of food deprivation.
Modern science has recognized the potential physiological benefits of intermittent fasting. It can help you lose weight, live longer, and improve your overall health.
Keep in mind that there are many different ways to fast. Everybody’s body works differently and responds to things in a completely different way. Your intermittent fasting diet plan might be different from your friend’s–and that’s totally okay.
Also, it’s important to be aware of the side effects of intermittent fasting. I recommend trying a few approaches until you find one that suits your body and lifestyle needs.
Various plans for intermittent fasting
When it comes to intermittent fasting, there’s no one size fits all diet plan. Instead, there are several different plans that all fall under the umbrella of intermittent fasting. Don’t give up if the first plan you try doesn’t work for you.
- 16:8 Intermittent Fasting: This approach is very common and gives your body a fasting time of 16 hours. For example, you finish eating dinner at 8pm and don’t eat again until noon the following day. Basically, you’re simply skipping breakfast.
- 5:2 Intermittent Fasting: This approach means that on two consecutive days within each week you only eat 25% of your total calories. The other days are normal, non-restricted eating days.
- Alternate Day Fasting: This approach is how it sounds: you do a complete 24-hour fast one or two days of the week.
- 12:12 Intermittent Fasting: This approach is the healthiest and safest option for anyone. This is because your body should have at least 12 hours every day without eating so that it can focus on proper digestion and putting your body in a state of rest and repair. For example, you finish dinner at 6pm and don’t eat again until 6am. This style of fasting follows your body’s natural circadian rhythm, which is to eat when the sun goes up and stop when the sun goes down. It’s the perfect intermittent fasting diet plan for you if you’re a beginner.
- Fasting Mimicking Diet: This approach asks you to reduce your caloric intake to 30% of your recommended calories each day for 5 consecutive days. People often do this once a month or a few times a year to reset their body.
There is empirical research related to each of the different fasting techniques I’ve mentioned above. Overall, they have similar benefits. It mostly comes down to what works best for you and your schedule.
The most common way to fast is the 16:8 method because it’s simply eating dinner earlier and eating breakfast later, which tends to be pretty easy for people to get on board with. Watch my interview with Dr. Frank Lipman to learn more about this.
I had another conversation on IG LIVE on how intermittent fasting can benefit everything from your immune health, to your gut health, to your brain health with Dr. Will Cole. Watch it here!
It is important to note that if you have struggled with eating disorders in the past, fasting may not be right for you. If you decide you want to try it, talk to a health professional first to get proper guidelines and support.
How intermittent fasting works
The number one thing people rave about with fasting is the immediate weight loss (especially that stubborn belly fat). When you eat food that breaks down into sugar (glucose), your pancreas releases the hormone insulin.
Insulin helps you store that food in your liver and muscles. When there is no room left in these places, the food is stored in your fat cells and stays there as long as your insulin levels remain high.
When your body is in a fasting state (meaning no meals and no snacking), it reduces your insulin and blood pressure levels. This makes it possible for your fat cells to release that glucose and use it as energy, which aids in weight loss.
Here’s the bottom line: you should fast long enough to allow your insulin levels to go down for an extended period of time so that you can burn off extra fat.
The benefits and side effects of intermittent fasting
There are tons of benefits of intermittent fasting that have been proven by science. Experts often say fasting regularly leads to longevity. Beyond the benefit of a longer life, research has also shown that fasting reduces your risk of pre-diabetes and diabetes, decreases inflammation, eases depression and helps your brain function better by clearing out dangerous protein build up and cellular debris.
In addition, fasting has been shown to decrease the risk of cardiovascular disease and slow cancer growth. These are just a few of the many benefits of fasting.
Still, there are some side effects of intermittent fasting that you should be aware of. You’re more prone to dehydration when you’re fasting, so you need to make sure to drink plenty of water. You also might experience headaches, low energy, sleep disruptions, and digestive issues. If you’re noticing these side effects, take a break from intermittent fasting and see your doctor.
One important caveat to mention is that fasting is only successful when paired with a healthy diet rich in colorful plants, protein, healthy fat and fiber. Don’t expect to see results if you fast for 12 hours and then eat a pint of ice cream.
If you’re looking for healthy recipes to help you lose weight and gain energy during intermittent fasting, make sure to check out my high-protein white bean salad recipe and my delicious matzo ball soup recipe.
Again, the key is to find a style of eating that works for you. Maybe that means fasting regularly, maybe that means fasting once a year, or maybe fasting is just not for you–and that is okay! The most important thing is to focus on the practice of Culinary Alchemy™ – listening to your intuition and listening to your body, which is your greatest teacher.
XO – Serena